McCaw Hall, Seattle, WA; 31 May 2014

Dean Speer

Pacific Northwest Ballet in "Giselle" Photo © Angela Sterling

Pacific Northwest Ballet in “Giselle”
Photo © Angela Sterling

You can always tell when great love and sincerity go into something and this was very evident with the unveiling of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s new production of its 2011 “Giselle.” With divine new sets and costumes [by French designer Jérôme Kaplan], based on historic sketches from the 1841 original, it appeared fresh. Kudos to the production team all around.

Carla Körbes in the title role was in her element and it was a joyful occasion, as we welcomed her back to a major part after being sidelined for a good portion of the season. Her transformation from peppy, happy and trusting peasant girl, to the frailty of the mad/death scene, and then the inner resolve of a forgiving ghost in Act II was genuinely moving. Hops on pointe, excellent, as were her turns and jetés, and her batterie and quick hopping in a spinning attitude entrance of Act II, impressive. Act II’s romantic – and literally of the Romantic Era – pas de deux was lovely, with its soft backbends and overhead lifts. Like the Act III pas de deux of “Sleeping Beauty,” it’s what everyone has been waiting for and more than worth it.

I’ve been saying for years of Batkhurel Bold, “Does he realize just how good he is?” and so it was rewarding to see him fulfill the opportunity to portray a Silesian duke, the two-timing Albrecht. His pairing with Körbes was a true partnership and his solo work, also excellent, and his acting clear and believable.

[On a personal note, one of my great-grandfathers was from a town in Silesia. They moved to Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1847 and later to a small town in western Minnesota, where my grandfather was born. I had this brief flash of envisioning an American mid-west/plains version of “Giselle” – lots of lakes and woods for wilis to hide and float about in.]

Some people find the Peasant pas de deux annoying as in the sense of interrupting the flow of the dramatic action, but my take on it is that its function and where it’s placed is actually very smart. You see this in plays and movies all the time – something light and/or happy happens right before things go south, and for Giselle, they soon do go downhill very quickly. This device is also used in Act II right before the wilis set their claws on their first moonlight victim – when some villagers stumble upon some of these female vampires who at first appear fetchingly in poses but when the wise old village codger, Ezra Thomson, dissuades them, they show their true, frightening selves and scare them off.

Liora Neuville and Benjamin Griffiths were ebullient and bright in every way – crisp strong technique, and sunny, sailing through their partnering and solo assignments with aplomb. I’m only sorry that we will not be able to see more of Neuville as her talents are taking her from the ballet to the nursing field next season.

Laura Tisserand’s Myrtha was appropriately cool and never wavering in her murderous intent, first inflicted upon Hilarion [William Lin-Yee], the peasant in love with Giselle.

Lead wilis, Moyna and Zulmé were danced by a pair I’d like to each see more of – Emma Love Suddarth and Brittany Reid.

With staging supervision by Peter Boal, aided by Doug Fullington with his historic research and reconstructions and a tuneful accompaniment of a score by Adolphe Adam [Peasant pas music is by Burgmüller], played by the mighty PNB Orchestra and conducted by maestro Emil de Cou, PNB’s new/old “Giselle” is a long-term keeper.